I sat all the way through Left in Darkness, I felt I should probably review it. But how? What words to use? The movie left me feeling kind of incomplete. Not because it lacked closure, but because it didn't address a lot of the questions I had while watching it. So I decided to tackle this review as if I were reading the movie instead.
SYNOPSIS Celia's birthday is usually a day of mourning--her mother died giving birth. But Celia is determined to enjoy her 21st, so she hits up a frat party with her friend. There she's introduced to Doug, who drugs and rapes her. Not long after she endures this torment, she wakes up alone in a bathroom, dead. Still inside the frat house, but on a different plane of existence from the rest of the party, Celia has to fight off monsters who want to eat her soul, rescue her friend from suffering a similar fate as she, and confront her rapist, all while she tries to figure out how to move into the afterlife. Donovan, Celia's guardian angel, offers to help, but she doesn't like what he has to say.
EDITOR'S NOTE Sounds good. I look forward to learning more about your take on death and the afterlife. These soul-eaters sound interesting. As does this Donovan character. I imagine the house is like some kind of transitional space, or a testing ground for Celia to find out where her soul will go.
SCENE Celia meets Donovan, who explains to her that he's her imaginary friend from when she was little. He tells her he's been watching over her and we come to understand that he was whispering to her earlier to leave the party. Donovan explains to Celia that she's dead and the house is offering her protection for the next two hours, but she has to stay in the light.
ED Sounds like a lot of exposition. Is there some way to more evenly distribute this information? And why does she only have two hours? If Donovan is really that talkative, how come he doesn't explain everything about the house and what's happening?
SCENE Donovan takes Celia to the basement where he shows her to the room where she passed out. He tells her this is the way to the afterlife. Celia says she can't go in there and wants to find another way. If she can't, then she'll go into the room.
ED Is this about Celia confronting what happened to her? Is this a trial?
SCENE Celia wanders around the house.
ED So there's no trial...
SCENE Celia is chased by soul-eaters.
ED If Donovan's her guardian angel, how come he doesn't protect her from the soul-eaters?
SCENE Celia and Donovan are in the attic. They watch as Doug contemplates suicide. Donovan whispers to Doug that he should go ahead and do it, taking his hand and guiding him through the motions. Celia gets angry at Donovan for trying to kill Doug. Donovan tells her Doug deserves to die. Celia disagrees and tells Donovan to leave her alone. He disappears and Doug ends up dying. When his soul wakes up, Celia discovers he's sucking her energy. She suggests the two of them work together to save themselves.
ED Whoa, whoa! Doug raped and murdered Celia. Raped. And murdered. Donovan's right, he deserves to die. And for bad things to happen to him after death. But the way you've got it, the scene vilifies Donovan and demeans Celia. I think you think Celia is demonstrating kindness and decency, but she's really just being naive. It's a bit insulting. Celia needs to be strong, but forgiveness, in this case, is just the opposite--it weakens her character. Celia can't allow herself to be further victimized after death. Especially not if she needs the strength to follow Donovan's suggestion and revisit the basement room.
SCENE Celia and Donovan argue about Celia's fate. She's running out of time.
ED Time for what? I'm still unclear as to what'll happen when her time's up. Also, it seems the characters are going in circles, rehashing the same argument without making any progress.
SCENE Celia imagines having a conversation with her grandmother in which she learns she has to find her "source". Celia decides to go back to the basement. There she learns that Donovan's salvation is actually hell. She uses a Ouija board to tell the party guests where her body is and waits to leave the house with her corpse. While she waits, it comes to her, what her grandmother said about her "source". Celia's path to heaven is inside the house. Celia fights to get to the source before her time runs out.
ED The hell is this source business? Where'd that come from? And how come no one's found her corpse yet? I mean I know the house has a lot of bathrooms, but there's also a lot of people at that party. Wouldn't it have made more sense for Doug to leave her body in the basement? I mean, no one goes in that room. As for Donovan, I can't say I'm too surprised to learn what he's all about.
I think you have a real opportunity here to explore themes of death and the afterlife while dealing with trust issues. Like I said earlier, you have a good foundation, but the problem is that not only is Celia stuck in this nebulous, undefined in-between place, but the story is, too. When Donovan first appears, he has Celia's total trust and he should use that to his advantage, instead of letting her waste everyone's time with her pointless running around. Let's not beat around the bush, Celia's vulnerable and when you're vulnerable, you're kinda dumb. If Donovan takes the initiative early on, you increase the tension, inject some much-needed conflict, and set yourself up for an interesting journey of self-discovery for Celia. There can be something for us to learn even after death.
I look forward to reading a second draft.